Rob Katz

Weekend Reading: M-Banking, Remittances, Philanthropreneurs

Update: I just saw this week’s edition of BusinessWeek, where the cover story is entitled? Beyond The Green Corporation.? Worth reading, although I’ll warn you not to expect anything earth-shattering.? It’s also worth taking a look at some of the associated articles…enjoy.

Reading RainbowWith all the great content being produced of late by Julia, Lauren, and Courtland, I?m going to take the easy way out and provide a list of suggestions for your weekend reading (rainbow) pleasure. As always, this list is not meant to be exhaustive, and (at least in this edition) focuses more on finance than any other topic. Still interested? Read on…First, big kudos go out to NextBillion ally Christine Bowers, who has managed to forge an editorial relationship between her PSD Blog and Foreign Policy’s excellent FP Passport. PSD Bloggers will contribute a series of posts called Fighting Poverty With Markets–not the flashiest title, but it got my attention. The first post was authored by Christine herself, on mobile phone banking at the BOP. In it, she notes that Kenya’s Safaricom and Vodafone plan to launch M-Pesa, their m-banking product, to all of Kenya as of Monday. Stay tuned–I have heard through the grapevine that Kenya’s regulators are not happy about the quick rollout.

BusinessWeek recently profiled a for-profit microfinance and remittance processing company called Microfinance International (via MicroCapital–of course). Incorporated in Delaware, Microfinance International (MFIC) recently floated a $5 million corporate bond and has attracted over 50,000 customers in the United States alone. According to MFIC’s president and founder,

The key to achieving profitability while serving the needs of the poor…lies in his company’s diverse revenue stream. MFIC’s business model includes a remittance delivery platform that can be licensed to banks, new loan products for migrant workers in the U.S., larger loans to provide more lending capital to microfinance institutions in developing countries, and a burgeoning network of retail banking outlets in the U.S. geared toward serving the needs of low-income people.

It remains to be seen whether MFIC can ride its successful ARIAS processing software to profitability in 2007, but keep an eye on them–I think they will have the distinction of changing both the remittance business and the microfinance industry.

Third, Alex Steffen of Worldchanging weighs in on the challenges of doing well while doing good. The feature length article touches on the recent LA Times expose of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation endowment holdings and suggests how philanthropy needs to interact with business to succeed in our changing landscape. As is Alex’s norm, this is a well-written piece on a timely topic. My only wish is that he had mentioned philanthropreneurship more explicitly.

Finally, browse through the 59 Smartest Orgs Online (via THD Blog) over at Squidoo. Some of my favorite BOP players are up there, notably Kiva. And for the geographers out there, why not explore this cool map, where each U.S. state’s GDP is analogized to another country?s. For example, my home state of Pennsylvania has a GDP the size of the Netherlands. Who knew?